Cross-border e-commerce – That’s why retailers should think internationally

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With a web shop for sea containers, Eveon Containers wants to revolutionize the container market and is active across national borders. Cross-border e-commerce has become a central element of the global economy. Aad Storm, CEO of Eveon, explains the opportunities that transnational online trade offers companies and the obstacles that can arise.

Retailers and customers have long since ceased to act only locally or nationally, but across national borders. In cross-border e-commerce, customers shop abroad via digital platforms and companies offer their goods and services internationally on the Internet. The internationalization of trade is now an integral part of the globalized economy and is becoming increasingly important. According to Statista, sales in cross-border e-commerce in Europe will increase to 245 billion euros by 2022 (2018: 137 billion euros).

Internationalization of e-commerce

In Europe, two factors in particular have influenced the trend of Cross-border e-commerce favored in recent years. On the one hand, the elimination of customs and trade barriers: In the EU’s internal market, companies can easily offer their goods to all customers in the EU area by abolishing customs borders, without having to pay any additional taxes. Also helpful in the EU: uniform legislation, such as the e-commerce directive and the use of a common currency in the euro area. On the other hand, the digital revolution has given international trade a boost. The Web 2.0 technologies used for e-commerce and modern payment systems make it much easier for companies to operate internationally and penetrate foreign markets today than it was ten years ago.

The Dutch startup, founded at the end of 2020, also benefits from these factors Eveon Containers. Similar to other e-commerce shops that have revolutionized their target markets in recent years, Eveon was also founded with this intention. The container market was and still is very conservative and non-transparent for end customers. In most cases, companies that want to purchase sea containers cannot see prices for containers from suppliers. And where prices are available, they must first make written or telephone inquiries to the dealer before they can purchase a container. The Eveon web shop has simplified this process: German and Austrian customers can get a clear overview of all prices there. You can buy containers directly online and have them delivered.

Cross-border e-commerce – the Dutch start-up thinks so internationally

When the company was founded, it was clear that Eveon had to think internationally: the container market is structured internationally. The Netherlands alone as a market is too small for the sale of sea containers. By the way, the inspiration to start selling in another country came from a course at De Vlerick Business School in Belgium. An interesting case was presented there: A Belgian chocolate manufacturer only began to sell its chocolate via digital channels in its home country – with little success. Only when they brought their product to the American market did the business model become a success. Central learning: Do not start a digital business where you happen to live, but think internationally from the start.

Cross-border e-commerce
Containers are internationally sought-after goods. A reason for Eveon to start just outside the Netherlands. Image: Eveon

As a neighboring country, Germany was the ideal starting point for Eveon. In addition to digitization, there is also a large customer potential here: Germany has a very wide range of export and industrial companies that have a need for sea containers. In addition, German customers stand for high quality standards. This means that if the business model meets the needs of one market, it is also suitable for others.

From language barriers to bureaucracy to the legal framework

Today, the economic and technological conditions also offer small companies the opportunity to expand their focus internationally and thus greatly increase their customer potential. However, when it comes to cross-border online trading, there are a number of obstacles that should not be underestimated. On the one hand there is the language barrier: The international trade language is of course English. But customers in the target market primarily trust dealers who also speak their language. It is therefore essential not only to offer an offer in the local language, but also to have the right local partner. If this factor is taken into account too late, any reputational damage caused by dissatisfied customers can be difficult to reverse. It is worthwhile to set up a support team that can support customers in the respective national language.

Bureaucracy and Legal Conditions: Different tax systems and VAT rates – also within the EU – have to be taken into account. Even legal regulations regarding the right of withdrawal, product information or the use of customer data can vary greatly from country to country. Only careful preparation for the legal framework, preferably in cooperation with a local legal expert, can prevent a rude awakening.

Logistics and the right payment methods

logistics: Companies that have set up their online business in the target country need the right sales channels there so that the goods reach the customer. You have to take into account the infrastructure for shipping and returns, local delivery conditions and how to deal with any customer complaints. Especially when goods are delivered across borders, the logistics processes can become extremely complex. The delivery prices also vary greatly from country to country. The point of logistics plays a very important role for Eveon, since the delivery of containers to end customers involves a great deal of financial and logistical effort.

payment methods: Payment systems and customer preferences also differ from country to country. For example, while payments in advance are very common in Germany, they are rather unusual in other countries. Eveon first had to learn and adapt this. Providers also only rarely accept certain credit cards in some countries. Thanks to modern payment systems, however, it is much easier to offer customers a variety of different digital payment methods.

Cross-border e-commerce: The future belongs to online trading

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly easier for companies to operate across borders. Even if there are obstacles: today you have many more opportunities to offer your goods and services internationally than in the past. The future clearly belongs to international, digital platforms. If you prepare sufficiently in advance for the launch in the target market, analyze the local conditions and take any risks into account, nothing stands in the way of a successful start in the targeted market. Because: The best place for digital business is not always where you happen to live.

Also read: Intralogistics – DHL Group launches mammoth project to automate the fleet.

Image: Eveon

Aad Storm founded Eveon in 2020 – motivated by the idea of ​​making the market clearer and more open for customers – and is CEO of the company.